Failure is an option.

Today I had a bad day. I was taking a physical fitness test for my new job and I failed…badly at it. Back spasms have plagued me since I got between a 300lb man and a Stryker stretcher. He was trying to jump off, and some how I thought I was going to stop him. In the middle of the sit-up portion, my back locked up tighter than a virgins’ legs and I couldn’t sit back up. I tried, but my body betrayed me at the worst time. My emotions got the better of me, and I stormed off, being followed by Medic Dolphine.

I lived by the creed: “Failure is not an option.” Ask any one of my friends and they’ll tell you that I don’t take failure well…at all. It is not in my genetic structure to fail. I sat and stared at the running track that I was supposed to be running on after doing the sit-ups, and I realized that, failure had become an option in my life.

I knew that failure sucks big eggrolls, and it’s not something I like to do on a regular basis, but because of EMS, failure was an option. It just depends on how we look at it. The sit-ups: There was nothing I could’ve done. My back locked up on me, my feet went numb, and I couldn’t see through the white hot pain. I’ve trained for this day for months, almost six now. I had done countless more push-ups, sit ups, and running than I had to do today, but it was not ment to be.

Years ago, I would’ve fought, argued, and whined my way to never trying again. My mentality was, it’s not me, it’s them. After losing several patients over the years though has taught me that, no matter how hard you try, if it’s not supposed to work, it’s not going to work. I was not supposed to get in today for whatever reason, who knows why.

We as Medics and EMTs put a lot of blame on ourselves when things don’t go right and our co-workers help that process by reminding us of our failures. What we don’t remember are the times the shit went right. Yeah, my back may have spasmed today, but thank my lucky stars it didn’t when I had help get a kid out of a mangled car and I was contorted into a position I hadn’t seen since my Cheerleading days. I stayed in the same spot for almost an hour, yet my back didn’t betray me until I bent to pick up a piece of plastic on the ambulance floor during clean up after the call.

I remember all the large bore IV’s I missed and I think about them constantly, but I don’t pull up the fond memories of sinking 22’s and 24’s on little old ladies who would be poked and prodded into the night because of people rushing to get the line.

I’ve “failed” many arrests, hell, I speak of one in one of my posts. I remember dates, times, places, faces, what have you of the “failed” arrests, but I can’t even remember the name of my very last arrest. While she wasn’t a techincal save (walking out of the hospital), we “saved” her to the point that she was perfusing so her hand was warm when her husband of over 50 years was able to hold her hand and say good-bye while she was “alive” in her husbands’ mind.

I walked to my car, feeling dejected, but at the same time relieved. The spasm abated not too long after it started, keeping me from hours, if not days of bed rest and medication. I was given permission to retest; the instructors figured that I wasn’t lying about the back spasm because of the look of sheer pain on my face. They saw me trying, so they gave me information to reschedule.

I also think my mental shift came from reading. I had been voraciously reading a book by A.J. Jacobs called The Guinea Pig Diaries. In it, he does various experiments about his life. Outsourcing EVERYTHING he did during the day, even reading to his kids, to doing everything his wife asked him to do…no matter what. One section that caught my interest was when he spoke about how he makes a note every time he’s in a fast moving line at the store or at airport security. He’s right; we only notice the bad shit. Sure, for this particular section he researched a Harvard Psychologist (Daniel Gilbert and his book Stumbling on Happiness, but the take home point in all of it was that, we remember the bad stuff well, but never the really good stuff.

So, as I doff my cap to Mr. Jacobs, here is my “mental list” of everything that went right today:

I woke up and the Earth was still here.

I felt great considering my nervousness.

The drive to the hotel we stayed at and even to the test was uneventful and we found the place with lots of time to spare.

I was able to help motivate the girl who was before me into punching out her last few sit-ups; she made it.

I don’t have to get a prescription filled for a steroid because of my back; the spasm went away on its own and I just feel stiff, but nothing too bad.

I didn’t have to run in the extreme humidity which would’ve set off an asthma attack which would’ve been worse than the spasm.

I now know what I’m looking at and I’ll do better next time.

Now I’m going to lay down, get a few hours of rest, and start my process over again.

Have fun and Be safe!
~M. Trommashere~

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